David Callaway, a psychologist practicing in New York City, faces a difficult task: He must work through the trauma of his wife’s suicide while helping his 10-year-old daughter, Emily, deal with her own grief. He decides that moving to a new town will help her by removing reminders of the past.
Not long after they move into a big house in a small town in upstate New York, Emily starts mentioning a new imaginary friend, Charlie. David believes that this might be Emily’s way of working through the issues surrounding her mom’s death, but then mysterious things begin to happen around the house, and Emily begins to act strangely. Soon, the strange events turn deadly.
Emily insists that Charlie is to blame for everything.
Is Charlie real? Is he Emily’s alter ego? Will David be able to save his daughter? Unfortunately for him, the mystery goes far deeper than he can imagine.
Both of Emily’s parents love her deeply and shower her with affection. After his wife’s death, David does not let his own suffering interfere with his attempts to help Emily. David’s new friend, Elizabeth, also goes out of her way to help Emily.
Elizabeth is fond of low-cut dresses that reveal a lot of cleavage. Emily, quoting “Charlie,” makes a sexually ambiguous statement that he could have satisfied Mom better than Dad. In a flashback sequence, David sees his wife kissing another man in a deeply sexual manner as the man’s hands wander across her body and she moans with pleasure.
We see David’s wife dead in a bathtub. The water is red with blood. In a later scene, we see the bloody body of another dead woman in a bathtub. The shower curtain is smeared with words written in blood.
A woman is thrown through an upper floor window, and the scene is repeated in flashback. David fights off a man’s attack, slashing his hands with a knife. A man is smashed in the face with a shovel. A woman is hit over the head and pushed down stairs. A woman is punched in the face and then strangled. A man is shot twice.
Emily draws a flip-book cartoon of her mother committing suicide in a bathtub, with the childish images becoming increasingly bloody. David retrieves a dead cat from a water-filled bathtub. Someone has been mutilating the faces of Emily’s dolls.
One f-word. One misuse of “god.”
David’s wife washes down a prescription pill with a glass of wine. People at a party consume various drinks, and a drunk David asks for another martini. David and Elizabeth have wine with a meal.
David spies on his neighbors through a telescope. The camera focuses on a fishhook being pushed through a beetle.
Hide and Seek is a psychological thriller with two big twists—blink and you’ll miss the second one—and enough red herrings to stink up an entire fish market. Director John Polson is good at moody atmospherics and tricky fake-outs, but ultimately the film proves to be like one of those Rube Goldberg contraptions: a whole lot of moving parts to accomplish very little.
[Spoiler Warning] Some plot twists shouldn’t be given away, but this film’s major misdirection proves to be its most problematic element: “Charlie” turns out to be none other than David, Emily’s dad. The sudden realization that Emily has watched her father commit all the foregoing grotesqueries turned my stomach. And the sight of a psychologically disturbed and homicidal dad with a bloody butcher knife stalking his terrified young daughter through a darkened house crosses the line from thriller into the monstrous.